7 September 2008


The clay artisans always occupied a place of pride in my eyes. To me they are the best examples of passion at work. I don’t know about other cultures but we being idol worshippers should never ignore or forget about those countless unknown artists who dedicate almost their entire life in carving and moulding and giving life to clay and hay. We take them for granted though. The pujas or more precisely the Durga pujas and its festivities are just a month away. This is the peak season for all those unrewarded artists, the best days of the year. It’s the time when they immerse themselves in the chase of the light that would help them in giving that magic touch to the lifeless earth. I am not that much of a believer (if ones care to know) but the moment I look at one of the many idols with their piercing eyes that almost your mind, you cannot let go of the feeling that there is a void, a certain mystery that we can never cross, no matter what. These idol makers have thus become the subject of my news story this term. Few days back I got the chance to talk to them about their work and ambition, what drives them, what makes them keep alive this tradition what makes them stick to this profession -their future, their dreams.
And it was sort of a revelation to discover that they were doing a work that almost did not pay them. A work bereft of any profit, a work done with so much of zeal and passion but one that left one penniless at the end of the day. This was the bleak truth; far away from the romanticism that I always associated with them. It opened my eyes to one more harsh reality of life. No one is completely happy. No one is. I am talking here about the clay artisans in the Silcoorie tea estate. Compared to other artisans in the district, the ones in these parts are poorer. So, particularly for them this is a risky business. When we asked them about their choice they said they never thought of an alternative job. Moulding clay and hay to life was all they knew and nothing else. Right in front of our eyes we saw individuals from two generation dirtying their hands and giving shape to the mute, and otherwise unresponsive clay.
Watching them work at such close counters made them even more esteemed. It seems they are transported to a world of their own when they are working – a world inhabited only by their imagination and the clay at hand; a world where we ordinary mortals can never be able to tread. We are not privileged enough.
At the end of the day though reality bites. They too are human after all. The clay artisans had their own pent up anger and frustration. Passion always cannot rule the rooster. They too realize their worthlessness and maltreatment when they see that their work (which might equal to that of a outside artist) but they know fully well that they would be paid less. Then there is the cloud that forever hovers over them; the rains mar everything or at least poses as a grave danger to the drying of the idols. They are enraged of the fact that the government does not recognize their worth. If only they could arrange for some subsidies/loans like they do for the cottage artists et al. They too dream on…
So, next time you bow down before an idol just remember the sweat,hard work, fervour that went into it….
Unfortunately, they cannot even boast of their work ..their works are ultimately swallowed up by the waters...

2 after-thought(s):

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

Visiting after a long time, nice blog you have built up here.

Without sounding too condescending....are Wong Kar-wai films available in Silchar? In my school days, there was nothing beyond Jurassic Park. And with torrents still a few years away, life was tough. Things have changed , for the better it seems. Have you watched Blueberry Nights??

Nice piece on the clay artisans too. Though I am not really into the Puja festivities, I do appreciate nice workmanship on the idols. Ah! This reminds me of Rituparno Ghosh's Antarmahal...nice cinema.

modern exile said...

so Sujoy you are from silchar...thanx for the appreciation..wong kar-wai is still a far off dream...i'm too much into films so i manage...i've not watched Blueberry Nights..want to...heard its not one of his best though..